lunes, 23 de diciembre de 2013

2014 Reading Challenges: TBR Pile

Adam at Roof Beam Reader is hosting the fifth annual TBR Pile Challenge. This challenge started when Adam realized that he was missing out on a lot of great books because they were left to gather dust as soon as they were bought. Of course, most of us have this problem (and a fear of dying under the weight of a staggering TBR pile), so this challenge was a success right from the start!



The goal is to finally read 12 books from your own TBR pile in 12 months. Rules:
  1. Each of these 12 books must have been on your bookshelf or “To Be Read” list for AT LEAST one full year. This means the book cannot have a publication date of 1/1/2013 or later (any book published in the year 2012 or earlier qualifies, as long as it has been on your TBR pile – I WILL be checking publication dates). Caveat: Two (2) alternates are allowed, just in case one or two of the books end up in the “can’t get through” pile.
  2. To be eligible, you must sign-up with Mr. Linky below – link to your list (so create it ahead of time!) and add updated links to each book’s review. Books must be read and must be reviewed (doesn’t have to be too fancy) in order to count as completed.
  3.  The link you post in the Mr. Linky below must be to your “master list”. This is where you will keep track of your books completed, crossing them out and/or dating them as you go along, and updating the list with the links to each review (so there’s one easy, convenient way to find your list and all your reviews for the challenge). Your complete and final list must be posted by January 15th, 2014.
  4. Leave comments on this post as you go along, to update us on your status. Come back when you complete this challenge and leave a comment indicating that you CONQUERED YOUR 2014 TBR LIST! Every person who successfully reads his/her 12 books and/or alternates (and who provides a working link to their list, which has links to the review locations) will be entered to win a $50 gift card from Amazon.com or The Book Depository!
  5. Crossovers from other challenges are totally acceptable, as long as you have never read the book before and it was published before 2013!
My 2014 TBR Pile Challenge List:
  1. Saplings by Noel Streatfield (1945) (9/28)
  2. The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald (1925)
  3. The 19th of March and the 2nd of May by Benito Pérez Galdós (1873) (11/15)
  4. The Time in Between by María Dueñas (2009)
  5. Caves of Steel by Isaac Asimov (1954)
  6. A Dance with Dragons by George R.R. Martin (2011) (6/21)
  7. Watchmen by Alan Moore (1987) (2/27)
  8. The Guermantes Way by Marcel Proust (1920)
  9. Wigs on the Green by Nancy Mitford (1934) (7/31)
  10. It's Hard to Be Hip Over Thirty by Judith Viorst (1968) (4/26)
  11. Agent Zigzag by Ben McIntyre (2007)
  12. Kraken by China Miéville (2010)
Alternates:
  1. The Victorian Chaise Longue by Marghanita Laski (1953)
  2. Grimm Tales for Young and Old by Philip Pullman (2012)

lunes, 16 de diciembre de 2013

2014 Reading Challenges: Reading Outside The Box

Yet another challenge! It's easy to get stuck in our comfort zones as readers and never get out. I strive to read varied, so I was delighted when Alison at The Cheap Reader announced the Reading Outside The Box Challenge.




Participating is pretty easy.
  1. You have all of 2014 to read a book for each square.
  2. A book can only count for 1 square. There will be 25 books for this challenge.
  3. The books read for this project can come from other projects you’re participating in: school, review books, other challenge or events, books for fun.
  4. If you blog, keep a post/page for the challenge. Update the post/page when you read a book for the challenge with a link to your thoughts/review of the book. Make sure to state which square the book counts for!
  5. If you feel like it, write check in posts every few months. Update us on how you feel about the ‘new’ books you’re reading.
  6. Alison will keep a page for people to add review links to. It would be nice to see how others are feeling about the challenge.
I don't want to write a list of the books I want to read for each category. There are some categories which made me think of a particular book the moment I read them, but there are others that still have me scratching my head. If you have suggestions for good audiobooks, romance or self-published novels, please leave them in the comments! I'm really out of ideas for those categories.

I don't know whether I'll complete this challenge. After all, I've only read 25 books this year. However, I'm sure that it will push me outside of my comfort zone and will help me discover new books that would have gone under my radar.

Books read (titles link to my reviews):

1. Second Chance: The Life of Lazarillo de Tormes - Anonymous
2. Reading by Ear: Trafalgar - Benito Pérez Galdós
3. Graphic Novel: Watchmen - Alan Moore
4. Adult Fiction: A Tale for the Time Being - Ruth Ozeki
5. Non-fiction Book: Women Heroes of World War II - Kathryn J. Atwood
6. Middle Grade Fiction: The Graveyard Book - Neil Gaiman
7. Young Adult Fiction: Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children - Ransom Riggs
8. Biography or Memoir: Fun Home - Alison Bechdel
9. Poetry or Novel in Verse: It's Hard to Be Hip Over Thirty - Judith Viorst
10. Try a Classic: The Court of Charles IV - Benito Pérez Galdós
11. Read a Chunkster: A Dance with Dragons - George R.R. Martin
12. Relive the Magic: The Secret Garden - Frances Hodgson Burnett
13. Loved by Others: The Puppet Boy of Warsaw - Eva Weaver (it has a 4-star rating on GR)
14. Historical Fiction: Fireflies - Ana María Matute
15. Award Winner: Nada - Carmen Laforet (it won the Nadal Award on 1944)
16. Mystery: Gone Girl - Gillian Flynn
17. Lost in Translation: The Pillow Book - Sei Shōnagon (it was originally written in Japanese)
18. Contemporary Fiction: Night Film - Marisha Pessl
19. Gathering Dust: Saplings - Noel Streatfeild
20. Romance: Romeo and Juliet - William Shakespeare
21. Accidentally Watched the Movie First: The Mystery of the Black Jungle - Emilio Salgari
22. FantasyThe Children of Húrin - J.R.R. Tolkien
23. Science Fiction: The Age of Miracles - Karen Thompson Walker

Categories Left: Picture Book, Self Published

domingo, 15 de diciembre de 2013

2014 Reading Challenges: Everything España

Everything España, hosted by Lianne

Spain is a very interesting country with a very rich culture and history. Thus, Lianne at Caffeinated Life is hosting Everything España, a reading challenge about this Iberian country. Rules:
  1. It runs from 1 January 2014 to 31 December 2014
  2. You can join at any time
  3. Books accepted in this challenge are books set anywhere in Spain (completely or partly), or books written by a Spanish author.
The levels are:
  1. Tourist: 1 - 4 books
  2. Frequent Traveller: 5 - 9 books
  3. Spain is My Home: 10+ books

I couldn't pass up this challenge, since I don't know that much about Spanish literature. And that is especially bad, since I'm from Spain! I had already pledged to read more Spanish classics for the Classics Club Challenge, so this ties in nicely. I don't want to burn out with challenges, so I will try Tourist. If I finish too early, I can add more books to the challenge!

Books read (titles link to my review):
1. The Life of Lazarillo de Tormes - Anonymous (set in Spain and supposedly written by a Spanish author)
2. Trafalgar - Benito Pérez Galdós (set in Spain and written by a Spanish author)
3. The Court of Charles IV - Benito Pérez Galdós (set in Spain and written by a Spanish author)
4. Fireflies - Ana María Matute (set in Spain and written by a Spanish author)
5. Nada - Carmen Laforet (set in Spain and written by a Spanish author)
6. El voto femenino y yo - Clara Campoamor (nonfiction by a Spanish author)
7. The 19th of March and the 2nd of May - Benito Pérez Galdós (set in Spain and written by a Spanish author)

miércoles, 11 de diciembre de 2013

The Forgotten Garden - Kate Morton

Summary (from Goodreads):

Cassandra is lost, alone and grieving. Her much loved grandmother, Nell, has just died and Cassandra, her life already shaken by a tragic accident ten years ago, feels like she has lost everything dear to her. But an unexpected and mysterious bequest from Nell turns Cassandra's life upside down and ends up challenging everything she thought she knew about herself and her family. 

Inheriting a book of dark and intriguing fairytales written by Eliza Makepeace - the Victorian authoress who disappeared mysteriously in the early twentieth century - Cassandra takes her courage in both hands to follow in the footsteps of Nell on a quest to find out the truth about their history, their family and their past; little knowing that in the process, she will also discover a new life for herself.


Kate Morton writes a kind of book that I love. I would tentatively classify these novels as comforting historical fiction. What makes them different is that they are told from several points of view, at different times in history, they involve big families and are usually focused on women. The storylines end up superimposing and converging into a fireworks display, which usually makes me a happy reader. Another example of this kind of fiction are Maggie O'Farrell's novels (reviewed here and here).

The Forgotten Garden follows the stories of Cassandra (2005), Nell (1975) and Eliza (1900-14), as Nell tries to untangle her origins since she was abandoned in a wharf in Australia when she was a little child. However, this mistery isn't such for the reader, who knows many of the secrets from the start. This hindered a little bit my engagement with the story. Even if Kate Morton tried to muddle things toward the middle, it was pretty obvious what the real ending was going to be, especially since there were many pages till the end. It's akin to watching an episode from a procedural show and knowing that their first choice of suspect is wrong and the murderer is still looming, free. This clumsy development brought some more awful consequences with it, since it forced the author to include several plot devices which seemed forced, and turned into loose ends. I'm thinking of the Jack the Ripper/mad brother/seedy detective plotline, for example.

The fact that the author felt compelled to include a romantic interest also bothers me. I think that, although cute, the emotionally manipulative background for Cassandra and her salvation by a knight in shining armour is problematic. It wouldn't be so if the women included were different, but most of them were cookie-cutter romantic heroines. I know -from The House at Riverton and from Eliza and from Rose's mother- that Kate Morton is more than capable of writing interesting women, so I'm still scratching my head over her choice of a timorous protagonist to lead a 500-pages novel. On the other hand, there is a veiled criticism in her way of describing the roles and expectations of a Victorian lady - the struggle for propriety and decency, the need to ensnare and keep a husband, be it with lies or kids or whatever it took - the ease of doctors and other men to declare a woman mad or hysteric. So maybe she had a point in choosing a female main character who doesn't exactly kick ass, but gets to solve a century-old mystery. And the romance subplot really adds to the fairy tale feeling of the whole foundling mystery, along with the very definite personalities of the different characters - the crone, the prince, the princess, the maid, the fairy queen, the gentle forest-dweller animals (one of them is even named Robyn!)...

Once again, I loved Kate Morton's writing skills. She brought Victorian London and Cornwall to life. I liked the bits and pieces of Victoriana she included, like mourning jewelryThe atmosphere was taken right out of a Dickens novel, and the cameo of Frances Hodgson Burnett was perfect, as were the references to Enid Blyton's books. But my favorite part were, without a doubt, the fairy tales and the book-within-a-book subplot. I like the fact that she invented an array of characters (writer, illustrator, reviewers, and biographers) who blended so well into reality. So much that I had to google to be sure they weren't real. I think I would have enjoyed reading Eliza's Magical Tales for Girls and Boys. The little snippets were lovely, although not to subtle when it came to foreshadowing the general story arc. I would have loved to see the accompanying illustrations.

viernes, 29 de noviembre de 2013

Nonfiction November: New Additions to My TBR


Kim from Sophisticated Dorkiness and Leslie from Regular Rumination are hosting Nonfiction November. It's a blogging event to celebrate nonfiction! Participants are encouraged to read more nonfction during the whole month. On Mondays, there will be a question related to the genre.

Behold: this is going to be all over the place. That's how I roll these days.

When I saw this challenge at the end of October, I was so excited for this! I've been wanting to make a dent on my nonfiction TBR for a while, and I thought the weekly questions were really cool. However, life has been sending me curveball after curveball during November - it has been a crazy month. And December won't be better. I have been through many rough changes in my life. But I'm thankful that some of those changes have brought incredible opportunities with them. The awful part is that I have almost abandoned blogging! 

I haven't been able to participate on the event as much as I'd have liked to, and I haven't been reading that much either. The only nonfiction I've started reading is The Monuments Men: Allied Heroes, Nazi Thieves, and the Greatest Treasure Hunt in History, and I'm liking it so far, but I'm barely 100 pages in. I didn't lie when I said I enjoyed reading nonfiction about WWII. But I've been reading all your blogs - instead of cutting down my TBR. And now it has tripled in size!

Karen at Candid Diversions is responsible for half of the additions to my TBR. Her WWII-centric list for 'Becoming the Expert' is amazing. While I was already familiar with some of the titles she mentions, I haven't yet read most of them. The books I'm most looking forward to reading are The Battle of Britain, The Secret Lives of Codebreakers and Savage Continent.

  

I've also added some science books, like The Lives of a Cell (thanks to Katie at Doing Dewey), or books about reading, like So Many Books, So Little Time (thanks to Book Mammal). And you guys have sparked my interest in foodie nonfiction! I've added quite a few titles of that category to my TBR, thanks to Joy (like Relish) and to our host Lu (like Fair Food or Tomatoland).

 

Even if I haven't participated that much, the event has been a fun one. I'm looking forward to next year's Nonfiction November. Thanks to the hosts and to everyone who has participated for this wonderful event!

miércoles, 13 de noviembre de 2013

The Mysterious Affair at Styles (Hercule Poirot #1) - Agatha Christie

Summary from Goodreads:

When a wealthy heiress is murdered, Poirot steps out of retirement to find the killer. As the master detective makes his way through the list of suspects, he finds the solution in an elaborately planned scheme almost impossible to believe.

This is Agatha Christie's first published novel, the first featuring Hercule Poirot, and the first I have read as well. I had an idea of what to expect because I had previously seen a couple of Poirot films - the Peter Ustinov ones. Now that I have read the novel, I have to say that he nails the eccentric Belgian detective.

The story is narrated by Lieutenant Hastings, who is on leave at Styles Court and an old friend of the family. Soon after he arrives, Emily Inglethorp, the matriarch and step-mother of John and Lawrence Cavendish, dies of strychnine poisoning. As the events occur during WWI, Poirot happens to be on exile near Styles Court and, as a friend of Hastings, decides to help solve the case.

I have to admit that I am a little sad that the war background wasn't better explored, but (judging solely from this novel) Agatha Christie's mysteries aren't exactly deep novels. I breezed through The Mysterious Affair at Styles, but couldn't help myself from rolling my eyes extra-high when it came to certain clichéd depictions - Jewish spy, knightly idealistic gentleman, saintly nurse, indomitable and jealous exotic beauty, or stoic and sensible English lady. Cozy mysteries are full of these types, but Christie wasn't the first one to stock up on them. As I read, I couldn't stop thinking about A.C. Doyle's Sherlock Holmes. Even the duo military narrator - eccentric detective has similiraties with that of Watson and Holmes. However, Christie made them distinct from their predecessors: Hastings is way more uptight and full of himself than Watson, while Poirot isn't nearly as aloof or socially awkward as Holmes.

It is a fun novel, but I'm affraid the details won't stick. The mystery itself is a classic whodunit. So classic that I was constantly reminded of the Appointment with Death film - even the solution is similar. The motive is clear (money), the cause is known (poisoning, which I heard it's a Christie's classic), and the array of suspects is varied. I'm usually good at guessing the killer, but, guided but the confused narrator, my suspicions went from character to character without settling. That made it even more of a page-turner, so I'm not complaining.

viernes, 8 de noviembre de 2013

Book Blogger Hop: When do you post your reviews?



The question for this week is: Do you post your book reviews as soon as you have completed the book or do you wait a few days?

Sometimes, my head starts composing reviews of its own accord while I'm reading the book. The only thing I can do then is jump to write the review as soon as I finish reading. Those are the easiest reviews. 
Sometimes, though, I know what I want to talk about but I can't put my thoughts into words. I try to come up with a list of what I liked and disliked about the book, sleep on it and expand the list until it looks like a review.

In any case, I try to write my book reviews as soon as I can, so I can capture my reaction to the book in question. However, when it comes to posting them, it's a completely different matter. When I started this blog, back in April, I posted them as soon as they were written. I've only recently started to feel comfortable with a blogging schedule, and now I try to post book reviews once a week, every Wednesday.

jueves, 7 de noviembre de 2013

The Classics Club: November Meme


The Classics Club monthly meme is another way to bring members of The Classics Club together.
A meme rewind: Pick a classic someone else in the club has read from our big review list. Link to their review and offer a quote from their post describing their reaction to the book. What about their post makes you excited to read that classic in particular?
Since it's the first time I participate in the Monthly Meme, I hadn't done this question before. I decided to choose a classic that I love and then read some of the reviews about it. Well, I hit the jackpot right away! I went to read reviews of Anna Karenina, and found Ellie's review.

Ellie blogs at Lit Nerd and her about page convinced me of her awesomeness. In her own words: Ellie, London, Nerd. Her review is funny and spot-on! Let me sample this for you:
What an emotional roller-coaster  I mean, PHEW, I feel pretty drained right about now. AK should come with a health warning or something to allow those of a sensitive disposition (by this I mean myself, obviously) to prepare themselves for such an emotional reading experience.
With that start, it was impossible to stop reading. And impossible to not follow Lit Nerd from now on!

miércoles, 6 de noviembre de 2013

The Map of the Sky (Victorian Trilogy #2) - Félix J. Palma

Summary from Goodreads:

A love story serves as backdrop for The Map of the Sky when New York socialite Emma Harlow agrees to marry millionaire Montgomery Gilmore, but only if he accepts her audacious challenge: to reproduce the extraterrestrial invasion featured in Wells’s War of the Worlds. What follows are three brilliantly interconnected plots to create a breathtaking tale of time travel and mystery, replete with cameos by a young Edgar Allan Poe, and Captain Shackleton and Charles Winslow from The Map of Time.

I finally got to read the second novel of the Victorian trilogy by Félix J. Palma. If you have been following this blog, by now you know that I love Palma's fiction: I've reviewed The Map of Time and an untranslated short story collection, The Private Matters, and plan on reading and reviewing his backlist.

I had high expectations regarding this book. I really, really loved The Map of Time, and wanted to like the sequel just as much. Alas, although I really liked it, I thought it wasn't as good. It starts slowly. With that, I mean that the first hundred pages are static plot-wise, the characters aren't written to be liked, and I had a hard time getting into the novel. But past that initial obstacle, we find again Félix Palma's characteristic quirky voice and brisk pace, and the rest of the novel is really worth that initial effort. It is, however, much darker and grimmer than The Map of Time. Here's the book trailer (in Spanish, but it is still beautiful and easy to understand without words):




martes, 5 de noviembre de 2013

Top Ten Tuesday: Sequels I Can't Wait to Get my Hands On


Top Ten Tuesday is an original weekly meme created at The Broke and the Bookish. Each week they will post a new Top Ten list that anyone can answer. All you have to do is link back to The Broke and the Bookish on your own Top Ten Tuesday post and add it to the Linky widget.



Top Ten Sequels I Can't Wait To Get My Hands On



lunes, 4 de noviembre de 2013

Nonfiction November: Nonfiction Favorites



Kim from Sophisticated Dorkiness and Leslie from Regular Rumination are hosting Nonfiction November. It's a blogging event to celebrate nonfiction! Participants are encouraged to read more nonfction during the whole month. On Mondays, there will be a question related to the genre.

I've realized I have not read a single nonfiction book this year! And I don't want to look at past years stats, because it would only be too sad. I'm a lousy nonfiction reader! So I seized the opportunity the moment I heard about Nonfiction November. Sadly, I have many fiction books that need to be read. Or not so sadly. I love to have book stacks overload. Anyway, even if I won't be reading solely nonfiction, I wanted to participate with at least a couple of books.

Today's question is What is your favorite piece of nonfiction? I'm afraid I'm not really qualified to answer the question. I've noticed that I like reading about:


Spanish grammar (it's my native language)
Books
History, specifically the Second World War
Women: evolution of gender roles through history, women who made a historical difference, feminism
Biology

Click the covers if you want to know more about my choices. And sorry about the couple in Spanish that haven't been translated, but I really really liked them when I read them and couldn't bring myself to leave them off the list.


      


            



jueves, 31 de octubre de 2013

Head Games (Locke and Key #2) - Joe Hill & Gabriel Rodríguez

Summary from Goodreads:

Following a shocking death that dredges up memories of their father's murder, Kinsey and Tyler Locke are thrown into choppy emotional waters, and turn to their new friend, Zack Wells, for support, little suspecting Zack's dark secret. Meanwhile, six-year-old Bode Locke tries to puzzle out the secret of the head key, and Uncle Duncan is jarred into the past by a disturbingly familiar face. Open your mind - the head games are just getting started.

Head Games continues the story of the Locke family from Welcome to Lovecraft. So don't go on reading if you haven't read that one just yet!

Now that Sam's threat has passed, the Locke family is starting to feel safe again. So much, that Duncan is going to be away for a while, and the children are in charge of Nina. Unfortunately, Nina is still reeling from Rendell's death and the recent events at Lovecraft, so the kids get plenty of time on their own. This leads to the discovery of another magic key: the Head Key. 

The Head Key is a highly intelligent concept, besides being important for the plot. It opens heads, literally. Creepy, but cool. This key represents self-exploration, the knowing of one's weaknesses and strengths. Who wouldn't want to get ride of their fear in some situations? Or to be able to know just about everything ever written? Just cram the book inside your head, literally! I get the excitement of the Locke kids.

However, the Lockes are unaware of the new threat, far more dangerous than Sam ever was: Dodge, who is now very close to them under the identity of new student Zack Wells. He has gotten his way into the family, being a friend and listening to both Tyler and Kinsey, something they aren't used to, given their status as victims. With Kinsey's fear out of the way, the danger is looming as Dodge gets rid of everyone that could have identified him.

Unlike the characters, we know who the evil guy is. For a while, the novel turned into a slasher, and nothing more. However, Joe Hill had an ace up his sleeve. The final twist about Rufus blew my mind, and I loved the backstory even more. Although the pace of Head Games is slower than that of Welcome to Lovecraft, and there isn't that atmosphere of dread and terror, I still want to know more. This series is addictive!  

miércoles, 30 de octubre de 2013

The Ocean at the End of the Lane - Neil Gaiman


Summary from Goodreads

It began for our narrator forty years ago when the family lodger stole their car and committed suicide in it, stirring up ancient powers best left undisturbed. Dark creatures from beyond this world are on the loose, and it will take everything our narrator has just to stay alive: there is primal horror here, and menace unleashed - within his family and from the forces that have gathered to destroy it.

His only defence is three women, on a farm at the end of the lane. The youngest of them claims that her duckpond is an ocean. The oldest can remember the Big Bang.

This is a very special book for me. The first time I read a book written by Neil Gaiman was a long time ago (Anansi Boys, in case you're wondering). And I was hooked. I had been waiting to get my hands on The Ocean at the End of the Lane since I heard of it earlier this year. It was a lot of expectation. And once again, Gaiman simply did it. It went directly to my favorites shelf.


I have been avoiding writing this "review" because I've loved it so much that I feel unable to be coherent about it. I am tempted to just leave it like that. I loved it, that's it. I know I will come back to it many, many times in my future reading life. I can't think of higher praise for a book than it eliciting this raw need for revisiting the world and the characters it contains. I also know I'll want to see what I thought the first time I read it, so here I am.

The Ocean at the End of the Lane threw me down memory lane and made me feel I was seven. Neil Gaiman has definitely never forgotten what is like to be a kid and has captured it in his new novel for adults. This strikes me as curious, since his novels for younger readers always make me remember how responsible and logical little kids can be - how adult they can be. But I guess that is only fair, since:
"Grown-ups don’t look like grown-ups on the inside either. Outside, they’re big and thoughtless and they always know what they’re doing. Inside, they look just like they always have. Like they did when they were your age. The truth is, there aren’t any grown-ups. Not one, in the whole wide world."
When their lodger commits suicide at the end of the lane, a monster gets free and starts to wreak havoc on the lives of the inhabitants of this place in Sussex. But the real terror starts even before that, when the young boy has to stop having his own room (and I was stupidly starting to have an odd nostalgia for the little yellow sink just his size). It's terrifying to think of how helpless we were against the illogical adult world, when everyone made every decision for us, but nobody truly asked what we liked or thought was best. We were, in a way, trapped. The monster, a monster empowered by the greedy hearts of the adults, only makes matter worse intensifying that helplessness. Eliminating every little bit of credibility a seven-year-old boy can have. Some times, during the afternoon I spent reading this, I burrowed further inside my blanket-fort to face the scary bits - they made me tense and worried and I forgot I was only reading a novel. And, at the same time, I loved obliterating myself so much that I could be as frighted as the young boy.

The mythology of this book is very similar to that of the traditional fairy tales. And that is one of my favorite aspects of every Neil Gaiman novel ever, the fairy tale-ish world he creates. It's not only a monster that stands for vanity, greed and lust, or the ultimate evil which is void and nothingness, it's also the plucky hero and the three women who hold the threads of fate, the Hempstock women. And the Hempstock farm, with an ever-bright, ever-full moon, extensive land where cats can be harvested and a pond that is possibly also an ocean. It's the perfect blend of straightforward fantasy, quirkiness and (what I've come to identify as) British humor. It's also Neil Gaiman's trademark. And I'll be delighted to revisit this world again.

martes, 29 de octubre de 2013

Teaser Tuesdays - Halloween Edition

Teaser Tuesdays is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by MizB of Should Be Reading. Rules here.

As I wanted to have a little Halloween blogging celebration this week, I decided to make a Teaser Tuesdays: Halloween Edition!


Copyright missing! Did you carve this amazing pumpkin?

My teasers:
“Monsters come in all shapes and sizes, Some of them are things people are scared of. Some of them are things that look like things people used to be scared of a long time ago. Sometimes monsters are things people should be scared of, but they aren't.”
The Ocean at the End of the Lane, by Neil Gaiman
Finally, the review will go up tomorrow. And this time, for real.


"I found a secrit door and when you go thru you turn into a gowst. It's fun to bee a ded persin."
Welcome to Lovecraft, by Joe Hill
I reviewed this scary graphic novel with demons living in wells and little kids turning into ghosts yesterday.


"One of his eyes resembled that of a vulture - a pale blue eye, with a film over it. Whenever it fell upon me, my blood ran cold; and so by degrees - very gradually - I made up my mind to take the life of the old man, and thus rid myself of the eye forever."
The Tell-Tale Heart (Complete Tales & Poems), by Edgar Allan Poe
And a wonderful classic to end this Halloween Multi-Teaser Tuesday. Nobody wrote bone-chilling stories as well as Poe.

lunes, 28 de octubre de 2013

Welcome to Lovecraft (Locke and Key #1) - Joe Hill & Gabriel Rodríguez

Summary from Goodreads:

Locke & Key tells of Keyhouse, an unlikely New England mansion, with fantastic doors that transform all who dare to walk through them, and home to a hate-filled and relentless creature that will not rest until it forces open the most terrible door of them all.

Welcome to Lovecraft opens with the murder of Rendell Locke, father to three children: Tyler, Kinsey, and Bode. This murder is perpetrated by Sam Lesser, a troubled young man treated by Mr. Locke. After this event, the three kids, along with their mother, who survived the attack, relocate from San Francisco to Lovecrat, Massachussetts. Until then, the story is full of tension and blood and violence, but fully grounded on reality. 

This changes when they move into Keyhouse with their uncle Duncan Locke. The youngest of the three Locke kids, Bode, sets to explore the manor on his own. The distinction between reality and fantasy starts to blur when Bode discovers the Ghost Key, that allows the user to transform into a ghost when they cross the door it opens. As it happens, the house is more than just a house, and there seems to be a special connection with the Locke family. Bode also discovers the Lady in the Well, an evil being who claims to be no more than his echo. As the story furthers, we learn that this being is behind the murder of Rendell Locke and is helping Sam escape from the correctional facility where he had been locked after the murder. We know the Lady in the Well, or Dodge, is after something the Lockes have. But what exactly or why is it that he wants?

During the whole Welcome to Lovecraft, Joe Hill builds up tension and terror. I wanted to know more and I also wanted to stop reading. The plot is enough to make you scared and curious. It's really addictive. Nevertheless, I like that this graphic novel goes deeper than the supernatural element and the gore. The murder allows Joe Hill to explore how the survivors cope with guilt and the horrible memories of the event. Kinsey wants to disappear, to go unnoticed, which is reflected on her complete make-over. Their mother, Nina, has started drinking. Tyler is guilt-ridden, to the point of feeling directly responsible of the murder. It shows how skilled Hill is when it comes to character development, and these relatable quiet moments are what make Welcome to Lovecraft a masterpiece, since they balance the violence and terror so well.

The artwork, by Gabriel Rodríguez, is equally stunning. It has a cinematic feeling, with planes of great scope that then zoom in to a focal point, or a superposition of a certain character in different scenarios to show different layers of meaning for the same line of text. The characters are drawn in a deceptively simple style that allows for great complexity and detail. The drawings have as much personality as the characters themselves. He also makes a great use of perspective, far greater than I've ever seen in a graphic novel - it really enhances the different plot points. Joe Hill and Gabriel Rodríguez are definitely a match made in heaven.

miércoles, 23 de octubre de 2013

Neil Gaiman's Reading Agency Lecture 2013: In Defense of Libraries

There's no review today - sorry! A case of eating too much candy popcorn kept me away from the keyboard. If everything goes well - that is, if I avoid candy and focus on fruit -, my review of Neil Gaiman's The Ocean at the End of the Lane will go up tomorrow.

In the meantime, I leave you with Neil Gaiman's Reading Agency Lecture, which made me feel better and put into words everything I've always thought about fiction, reading and libraries. It is, without doubt, one of the best talks I've ever had the pleasure of listening.

martes, 22 de octubre de 2013

Teaser Tuesdays - The Forgotten Garden

Teaser Tuesdays is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by MizB of Should Be Reading. Rules here.


Parc del Laberint d'Horta, Barcelona
I'm reading The Forgotten Garden, by Kate Morton. She's had a book out this year, The Secret Keeper, but I've only read her first, The House at Riverton. I loved it. If you enjoy family secrets and/or Downton Abbey, make yourself a favor and go read The House at Riverton. I don't know why I've waited so long to read a book with such an interesting summary:

Cassandra is lost, alone and grieving. Her much loved grandmother, Nell, has just died and Cassandra, her life already shaken by a tragic accident ten years ago, feels like she has lost everything dear to her. But an unexpected and mysterious bequest from Nell turns Cassandra's life upside down and ends up challenging everything she thought she knew about herself and her family.

My teaser:
What I'm about to tell you is our family's big secret. Every family's got one, you can be sure of that. Some are just bigger than others.
~p.23, The Forgotten Garden, by Kate Morton


lunes, 21 de octubre de 2013

Carrie

I've known about the remake of Carrie for a long time. I rather like Chloë Grace Moretz as an actress, and tend to follow her projects. I simply wasn't interested in this particular one. I've never read the novel by Stephen King, but I thought the 1976 movie was enough.

That is, until I read a NYT interview with director Kimberley Peirce. I knew nothing about her before reading that interview, and that is maybe because she has only two films out. But both deal with thorny issues that I'm particularly interested in, violence and gender. Apparently, she is going to deal with the iconic story in the same way:
I deal with misfits, with what power does to people, with humiliation and anger and violence. Like Brandon, Carrie has gone through life getting beaten up by everyone. She’s got no safe place. And then she finds telekinesis — her talent, her skill — and it becomes her refuge. And I thought, Wow, this is an opportunity to make a superhero-origin story. With her period comes the power. With adolescence comes sexuality, and with sexuality comes power.
Now I'm sold, and really want to go see the new Carrie.


jueves, 17 de octubre de 2013

The Liebster Award


Hey guys, I've been nominated for the Liebster Award by Jennifer Windram! You might be wondering what exactly the Liebster Award is. As I understand it, it's a way to bring attention to new and interesting blogs. It is a really cool initiative, what with so many blogs and so little time. 
Thank you, Jennifer, for thinking of All the Pretty Books!

This award has a few rules:
  1. Each nominee must link back to the person who nominated them.
  2. Answer the 10 questions which are given to you by the nominator.
  3. Nominate 10 other bloggers for this award who have less than 200 followers.
  4. Create 10 questions for your nominees to answer.
  5. Let the nominees know that they have been nominated by going to their blog and notifying them.
If you are like me and think that grumpy cat and you are soulmates, it's easy to simply skip this. Don't get me wrong, I appreciate the sentiment, but this answering questions and things just isn't my thing. I didn't intend to answer it until I realized that I had a severe shortage of cool, new book blogs to follow. So please, please, if you are nominated, at least make a list of 10 bloggers who don't have as many followers as you think they should. Skip the questions if you want, but don't skip the bloggers!

As per the rules, now I must answer some questions...

miércoles, 16 de octubre de 2013

Ever After - Graham Swift

Summary from Goodreads:

An academic sits alone in his college room thinking about the people he has lost. Powerful memories crowd in on him - childhood days in Paris; his exuberant, glamorous mother; his mysterious father; and the brash young American who becomes his step-father. Mingled with this emerges a tender portrait of his relationship with his actress wife. Ever After is a poignant elegy to lost faith and lost hope. It is also a powerful affirmation of love.

This is my first Graham Swift novel. I knew nothing about the author until I was forced recommended to read this novel, even though he is a Booker Prize recipient, and I have to say that I'm glad I came across Ever After. This slim novel is an exploration of families, identity, faith, happiness and purpose. I am wowed by Swift's writing skills. His prose is delightful and made for reveling in it. Let me show you:
We walk, skirting carpets of greensward, by the willow-hung, punt-cluttered river. The scene is a vernal idyll. This is the time of year when academic cussedness dictates that the youth of the university should shut itself away to swot for exams, just when its young blood should be pulsing to the joys of spring; and when the youth of the university naturally defies the injunction. There is a general sprawling on grass; couples fondling; flimsy attire; river-borne frivolity.
Swift definitely looks at common objects and events with different eyes. Or rather, the main character, professor Bill Unwin does. This man, who is past his prime, has secluded himself from the world in an unnamed college (I think Cambridge), after losing his parents and his wife, the famous actress Ruth Unwin. After a suicide attempt, he now recollects the time spent with his father, his mother, his step-father and his wife, and tries to find his own identity in a world where nobody is connected to him.

Bill Unwin is not a likeable character for the whole first half of the book. He is wry, cynical and boastful - perfectly characterized as a professor, in fact. He even sounds artificial. His recollections of the past are always presented through the lens of idealized childhood, for all the 'woe is me' he feels entitled to. I mean, the man constantly compares himself to Hamlet. I really loved the references, but it is over the top. When his story unravels, he lets us see his grief, raw and implacable, to the point of leading him to suicide. He is but another sad, lonely man, who puts on an aloof mask to endure life. Ayone who has lost someone will recognize that feeling, and will want to tell Bill that it gets better, that the grief will always be there but that you eventually learn to corral it.

His story is interwoven with that of Matthew Pearce, a 19th century man who had a crisis of faith due to finding an ichthyosaur and reading On the Origin of Species. As a man who grew up believing the Bible word for word, the concept of evolution shatters his worldview. His crisis of faith forces him to abandon his family, since he had been married to the daughter of a Rector. Thus, he represents another kind of loss, enabling Swift to explore a different kind of grief and loneliness. And it has the added layer of being a tale within a tale, since it is the fictionalized version of Matthew's life as told by Bill, based on Matthew's Notebooks, which have always been in Bill's family. Some of the entries are included, further complicating the non-linear narrative.

All in all, I liked Ever After, but I didn't love it. It is powerful and intelligent, but I was left with a sense of disconnect. It is maybe due to the ending, which lacks in hope, or to the broaching of so many topics, or to the (I want to think purposefully) artificiality of the voice. I'll definitely read more by Swift, but I suspect that, although it is good, Ever After is not his best.